The Deflowering of Rhona Lipshitz HTML version

The Deflowering of Rhona Lipshitz
Copyright © 2012 Lisa Lieberman Doctor
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In loving memory of my mother, Rebecca Dean.
And for my children, Andrew and Jamie, who fill my life with
love and light.
Wednesday, August 11, 1971
If Millie Rosenblatt hadn’t bitten into that empty frankfurter bun without realizing the boiled meat had
quietly slipped to the floor and rolled under the table, I might never have left my husband Stuie.
Millie and I had a lot more in common than one might suspect, particularly if one were basing an opinion on
outward appearances. Where she was somewhere past fifty, I was barely eighteen, where she was short, rotund
and brassy blonde, I was tall and slender with dark brown hair. But we shared more important qualities than
looks. What united Millie and me was the fact that we truly believed we were taking huge bites out of life when
the sad truth was, our lives -- much like Millie’s roll -- were actually quite empty. There was no real meat for
either of us to taste, but no matter. We were determined to conceal what was missing with mustard and
sauerkraut and convince ourselves that everything was totally fine.
All this became clear to me in that perfect moment, as Millie took the bun into her mouth and ran her tongue
across those full lips, savoring the phantom hot dog that by now had come to a full stop under Gertie
Bernstein’s chair. On that hot and sticky Thursday night at the weekly Temple Beth Shalom bingo game, I
knew I was meant to soar like a falcon above the badlands of northeast Queens, New York, and there was no
way in hell Stuart Martin Weiner was coming along with me.
I knew Stuie from the day I was born, although nobody ever called him Stuie, except for me and his mother
and the principal at P.S. 206. In our neighborhood, the Walnut Garden Apartment complex just off the Long
Island Expressway, he was known as Skully because he had such a preposterously big head. Sometimes Selma,
my former mother-in-law, would be hanging the wash out the window, and without warning she’d scream,
“Stu-eeeee,” kind of like a pig farmer calling in the herd, and after a few efforts that always ended in vain, she’d
give off one loud “Skull!” and he’d stop whatever he was doing and shout back, “What do you want, ma?” from
the stoop, or the gutter, or wherever he happened to be hanging out, usually with me, his steady girlfriend since
the third grade.
The Weiners -- Sam and Selma, Stuie and his eleven year-old sister Nola, lived at the end of the block in the
building right over the garbage room. Every night after dinner I’d haul two bursting trash bags to the
windowless room with the big metal cans that smelled of rotten herring and decaying banana peels, and as soon
as I’d swung the bags into a bin and slammed the lid shut, I’d call Stuie’s name and he’d pull back the green
and blue plaid curtains in his bedroom and give me a half-hearted wave, not unlike the Queen of England
acknowledging her subjects as her carriage rolled down Buckingham Palace Road.
I don’t think there was ever a time when the sight of Stuie poking his head between the curtains or coming
down the block excited me, at least not since junior high. Back then I actually thought he was cute with his
curly brown hair and dark eyes, and I especially liked the way he could make the kids laugh in Mrs. Pullman’s
ninth grade science class by flinging pieces of dissected frog across the room. In junior high the names ‘Skully
and Ro’ went as naturally together as ‘bagels and lox’ or ‘cookies and milk,’ and that made me feel cared for
and safe, the way my mother said girls were supposed to feel. Most of the guys couldn’t commit to what they